There are a tremendous amount of cottage gear companies that exist to help the backpacking world get high quality gear that is made by smaller more personable companies allowing customization and more.
Their Story: John Gage and Mike Hawkins worked for different Fortune 500 textile manufacturing companies before starting Appalachian Gear Company in Charlotte, North Carolina, and developing All-Paca–a lightweight, 100 percent alpaca fabric with no harsh chemical processing and no synthetic fibers blended in. The yarn is imported from Peru and products are made in Charlotte.
Their Story: Cabot Hosiery Mill, run by father-son team Marc and Ric Cabot, has been making socks in Northfield, Vermont, since the late 1970s. When business lagged in the early 2000s the company began making Darn Tough socks, and a legend was born.
Best Known For: Unconditional lifetime guarantee on socks.
Their Story: Ultramarathoner Xy Weiss started by making leopard print gaiters to match her leopard print jog bra, and since 2004 Dirty Girl Gaiters have been made in America by “goddesses from their Empire of Dirt in Tucson, Arizona.”
Best Known For: Creative, wild designs on lightweight gaiters.
Their Story: Tim Marshall began sewing quilts in his basement in 2007, and since then has revolutionized backpacking sleep systems. His lightweight, warm quilts are a favorite for thru-hikers on the country’s long-distance trails. EE now has more than 50 workers creating quilts, clothing, and backpacking accessories in a 50,000-square-foot building in Winona, Minnesota.
Best Known For: The Revelation quilt. Warm and lightweight.
Their Story: Founders Peter and Carol Hickner moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1972 and started making the outdoor gear they wanted to use but couldn’t find or afford. All gear made in Seattle, Washington.
Their Story: Greenbelly founder Chris Cage traveled the world and hiked the AT, all the while thinking about how difficult it was to find nutritious food. Thus was born Greenbelly, maker of nutritious food for wherever your travels take you.
Their Story: Founded by nationally recognized chef Jennifer Scism, who began making her own dehydrated meals for backcountry trips. She and her husband, Good To-Go co-founder David Koorits, now produce a wide range of dehydrated meals in Maine.
Best Known For: An entirely gluten-free product line that is low in sodium, with no preservatives. Vegan and vegetarian options are available.
Their Story: Ben Smith started making down socks in 2010, and since then GooseFeet Gear has expanded into making down booties, outwear, and quilts. All the gear is made in the United States. Based in Milledgeville, Georgia.
Best Known For: High-quality, ultralight down clothing and accessories.
Their Story: Like so many others, Mike St. Pierre wanted lightweight, durable gear for the trail, and began making his own packs and shelters. Today St. Pierre, joined by brother Dan, makes ultralight gear in a renovated mill in Biddeford, Maine.
Best Known For: Packs like the Southwest, Windrider, and Junction, made from Dyneema Composite Fabric.
Their Story: Jack Tier and Jack Myers, retired Army officers with a combined 50 years of military service, began hiking together in 2002. After they started making some of their own gear they formed Jacks ‘R’ Better, with headquarters in Hulmeville, Pennsylvania, in 2004.
Best Known For: The Nest underquilt designed to fit Hennessy hammocks
Their Story: Childhood buddies Fritz Howard and Kevco began making outdoor gear in Leadville, Colorado, in 1994. Melanzana (Italian for eggplant) has grown since then to occupy a large retail space in Leadville—the only place that sells Melanzana clothing—making the mining town high in the Colorado Rockies a mecca for fans of the company’s clothing. All the fabric is made in the US, and the clothes are sewn in Leadville.
Best Known For: The Melly (Micro Grid Hoodie). A cult favorite of many hikers.
Their Story: Mike Cecot-Scherer designed tents for several companies before starting TheTentLab, run out of his home in Louisville, Colorado. The company’s The Deuce cathole trowel is made in Colorado, although its MoonLight tents are made in China.
Their Story: Brian Frankle recognized a need for durable, lightweight equipment after hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and started Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) in 2001. The company’s backpacks are made in Logan, Utah.
Their Story: When Joe Valesko hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004 he couldn’t find lightweight gear that he liked, so he made his own and tested it on the trail. Zpacks was born in 2005, and all its gear is sewn in in West Melbourne, Florida.